As the Deputy will be aware, a number of studies have been conducted on the economic and trade impacts of Brexit that point to the significant challenges that Brexit presents for employment in key sectors of the economy, and in certain regions of the country that are most exposed to Brexit.
Government has been upfront all along signalling that Brexit is damaging for the economy, gives rise to very few opportunities and is an exercise in damage limitation. Nonetheless, we are working across Government to create the best environment for businesses to grow, to innovate, to be competitive and ultimately, to create jobs.
In previous replies to the Deputy on this issue, I have set out the broad range of Brexit supports and measures put in place by Government as well as through the State Agencies under my remit, principally Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and InterTradeIreland. These initiatives are all aimed at helping businesses to compete, to diversify into new markets, to grow exports and to sustain valuable employment.
The Deputy will also be aware that Budget 2020 was framed from the perspective of a No Deal Brexit. In such a scenario, my Department will have immediate access to an emergency support package of €110 million. Funding will be available on day one of a crash-out to activate four specific schemes and other measures supporting those businesses most affected. The schemes will be available to vulnerable but viable firms with verifiable Brexit-exposure to help them adjust to the new trading reality and to develop new products and processes for export to new markets.
On a positive note, our economy has performed strongly in recent years with record numbers in employment as evidenced from the latest CSO figures that puts the unemployment rate at 4.8%. However, this strong economic performance cannot be taken for granted and must evolve to meet future challenges.
That is why, in March this year, I launched the Future Jobs Ireland initiative. This is an ambitious, medium-term framework to create a sustainable, resilient and future-oriented economy in Ireland over the years to 2025. Future Jobs Ireland aims to ensure that as our economy changes, and traditional industries and practices are disrupted, workers and enterprises are able to transition successfully. If we adapt now, our enterprises can stay competitive and our society resilient.
On 7 November my Department hosted a Future Jobs Ireland Summit with two hundred attendees from enterprises, representative bodies, academia, public sector and civil society. The aim of the Summit was for attendees to exchange ideas and input to the development of Future Jobs Ireland 2020. Along with the Department of the Taoiseach, my Department is working with other Government Departments and stakeholders to develop new commitments for Future Jobs Ireland 2020 which is expected to launch in early 2020.
Regional development is also a key priority for Government. The Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 aim to continue to deliver jobs across the country, in every region, and to address the challenges we face, including Brexit. The Plans, which are shaped from the ‘bottom-up’ by regional stakeholders, and overseen by my Department, are crucial in meeting the Government’s ambition to create an additional 200,000 jobs, of which 135,000 are outside the Dublin region, by 2020.
A key objective of each of the plans is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the unemployment rate of each region within one percentage point of the national average. We want to ensure that we are creating quality jobs that are sustainable in the longer term, so that we can secure Ireland’s economic success, in line with the Future Jobs Ireland initiative.